Dean Spink has told Shropshire Live that the EFL Trophy has its merits as Shrewsbury Town prepare to face Newcastle U21’s tonight.
The competition is much maligned with sparse crowds up and down the country expressing their dissatisfaction with the tournament.
A social media campaign to boycott the Trophy gathered pace when developmental teams began entering.
Shrewsbury faced Manchester City’s U21’s last campaign which attracted a crowd of just under 1,900. A similar attendance is expected tonight.
However, the competition does provide the opportunity for lower league clubs to experience the Wembley atmosphere. A crowd of over 40,000 witnessed Shrewsbury fall to a 1-0 final defeat against Lincoln in April 2018.
And a crowd of over 35,000 saw a Nigel Jemson inspired Rotherham United side, (containing the likes of Paul Hurst, Shaun Goater, and current Bradford boss Gary Bower) – defeat Town 2-1 in 1996.
Dean Spink who featured over 300 times for the club, was in Fred Davies’ side that day, and recalls the experience for the players.
He told Shropshire Live: “The Football League Trophy is a good cup for the lower league teams as they can make good revenue from it.
“Reaching Wembley in 1996 was amazing, except for the day itself. Fred Davies till this day will say we should have stuck with the team that beat Rotherham two weeks before.
“Losing at Wembley is soul-destroying – you just want to be eaten up alive. The coach home after was dead, no one was talking; it was devastating.”
Spink is regarded as the club’s all time ‘cult hero’ an accolade he was awarded in 2004 – an achievement which he describes as ‘unbelievable’. The former Chester City joint caretaker manager, notched 53 league goals, and was part of the Town team that achieved promotion in 1994.
Recalling this period, he added: “The promotion year was unbelievable. I remember the Scunthorpe game is when the run started.
“The atmosphere game after game was amazing, the dressing room banter was out of this world.
“We were a strong team that took no prisoners, to pick up the Championship cup and receive the medal was amazing. I still have that medal today, when I tell my boys the stories, they are in awe of me.
“My time at the club was great. So many things happened in those seven years, such as building a very good career in football, and making lasting friendships.
“I had amazing support from the fans who stuck by me through thick and thin, to this day I go and watch games. I am always made very welcome.”
Following the 1-0 victory over Tranmere, Shrewsbury occupy 12th place in League One, and the former Aston Villa striker added: “Sam Ricketts is doing a very good job, the club are realistically going to be finishing around mid-table this year.”